Mark Warner says that he got off to a good start, making it to Harvard Law School, but then promptly failed at everything he tried. No wonder, then, that he had to settle for a career in the U.S. Senate, where he's currently a democratic senator from Virginia.
We've invited Warner to play a game called "Danger! Get Away! Ahhhhh!" Three questions about warnings.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where we ask significant people about insignificant things.
SAGAL: This is a surprise?
SENATOR MARK WARNER: Are you talking about my day job?
SAGAL: Mark Warner says that he got off to a good start, making it to Harvard Law School, but then promptly failed at everything he tried. No wonder, then, that he had to settle for a career in the U.S. Senate.
SAGAL: He's a current Democratic Senator from Virginia, and he is the former Governor of that great commonwealth. We are delighted to have him here in Chicago. Senator Mark Warner welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!
SAGAL: Now you, although being well-known for your association with Virginia, are not from there originally, right?
SAGAL: Oh really?
WARNER: No, I'm actually originally from Indiana and then moved to Virginia after college and law school.
SAGAL: Really, and they don't hold that against you? I thought they were very, what's the word, hateful toward outsiders.
SAGAL: So you had gone to Virginia in business, right, you were a...
WARNER: Yeah, I got out of law school and tried to become a business guy, first time took my life savings, invested in a little energy startup company, went to work that company, helped the company go broke in six weeks.
SAGAL: Six weeks?
WARNER: Went into real estate and failed at that in six months. And I was literally flat broke living out of my car, and this is back 1982, and there was this new technology coming around called cell phones. And I went to all my law school classmates, who were at all these fine firms, and said, you know, there's this new things called cell phones, we ought to invest in it.
And to a person, they all said Warner, go get a real job. Who's going to want a cell phone? Most of them still practicing law.
SAGAL: Now this - it's interesting, so you were a Harvard Law School graduate, and you were living out of your car?
FAITH SALIE: Did you start thinking maybe you should've majored in art history?
WARNER: No, but I do have a middle daughter who just graduated in art history.
SAGAL: No really?
WARNER: She's going to be really upset about the show.
SAGAL: I know, well she got an apology. What is her ambition, other than to sponge off you?
SAGAL: So you were in Virginia, you were a successful businessman, and you decided to run against, ironically enough, a well-known senator from Virginia named John Warner. So it was Warner v. Warner.
WARNER: It confused the heck out of everybody.
SAGAL: Mark - how did...?
WARNER: What happened was, you know, here he had been in for a long, long time, good guy actually, people in Virginia were smart in rehiring him and not me, but, you know, I was a tech guy. He was the established senator. He'd actually been married to Elizabeth Taylor at one point. And so our campaign, our one good idea was we had a bumper strip that said on it simply Mark, not John.
WARNER: And people would come up and say is that a biblical reference?
WARNER: Honestly, yes.
SAGAL: That probably gave you some credibility in some...
WARNER: Well again, I got the silver medal.
SAGAL: There you are, exactly. If you had won, did you get to be married to Elizabeth Taylor? Was that part of the thing?
WARNER: Now that didn't work out, but you did eventually get elected governor, which was nice. And in Virginia, which is interesting, they only let people be governor once.
It is. It's the last state in the country with a one-term governor restriction. That's the downside. The upside is you don't get introduced as governor, you get introduced as His Excellency The Governor of the Commonwealth, and everybody has to stand up.
WARNER: Yeah, it's pretty cool.
SAGAL: You get to be - you actually get to be an excellency?
WARNER: You get to be an excellency, and people would stand up. My wife and three daughters never would, but it was pretty cool.
ROY BLOUNT JR.: I hope at least one time when somebody referred to you as your excellency you said you're not so bad yourself.
SAGAL: No you've been in the Senate since 2009, right? You were elected in 2008. And you've really become known, I think, in the Senate for your work on one specific issue, and that is trying to deport Justin Bieber.
SAGAL: Obviously you're riding a popular wave. Could you tell me how you became interested in expunging this menace to everything we hold dear?
WARNER: I was going to work and doing a radio show, and...
SAGAL: Always a mistake.
WARNER: And it was out of Virginia Beach, where we've got the Navy and lots of stuff, and I'm talking about the Navy, and I'm talking about the budget and these things. And I've done the show before. And the guy goes, well, Senator, you know, what do you think about this thing about deporting Justin Bieber? And I said I don't know as a senator, but as a father of three daughters, 19 to 24, I'll sign the petition.
WARNER: And I, you know, went to a hearing, gave a speech, and I came into the office a couple hours later, and the whole place was exploding, and they were going oh Senator, Senator, we've had more press in three hours on Justin Bieber than five years trying to work on the budget.
SAGAL: Everybody wanted to know.
WARNER: Everybody wanted to know.
SAGAL: You know, this could be, I'm just saying, you're one of 100. This might be your ticket to prominence, convene a committee of some kind, the Committee for Investigation of Canadian Activities, and this would be awesome. You can drag up witnesses and say are you now or have you ever been a Belieber.
SAGAL: I'm telling you, this would be awesome.
ALONZO BODDEN: I somehow think going up against millions of Beliebers is scarier than the Tea Party.
SAGAL: Now you're...
WARNER: They're both about equally informed.
SALIE: Yeah, you have three girls...
SAGAL: Oh, fighting words.
WARNER: My daughter texted me after that, and she said please don't deport Justin.
SAGAL: Really? You're running for re-election this cycle, which must be a little daunting, right.
WARNER: Long road show.
SAGAL: Long road show. Speaking of road show, you're here in Chicago. You're fundraising, right?
WARNER: Kind of what most of us do in this - too much in this business.
SAGAL: I've always wondered about this. I mean, I can't imagine what it would be like to have to ask strangers for money to support you doing your job.
SAGAL: It seems so humiliating and certainly far beneath my dignity. But have you ever been, like, faced with a wealthy donor, like somebody who's, like, going to write you that massive check that's going to, like, solve your financial problems for the week, and he is just being an idiot, and you just can't tell them that, and you just have to bite your tongue, and you just want to say I'm sorry but no amount of money is worth me listening to this nonsense?
WARNER: That was why I was a business guy and made money first, before I went into politics.
SAGAL: Really? I mean, but you know as a business guy that having a lot of money does not make you necessarily smart, right?
SAGAL: I'm just saying.
WARNER: That's not what us one-percenters think.
SAGAL: Really, he just gave me a look of such incomprehension. It was like you mean it doesn't? Well, Senator Warner, a pleasure to meet you and to talk to you, but it is time now to play a game that we're calling:
CARL KASELL: Danger, get away.
(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAMING)
SAGAL: Sure, you call yourself a Warner, but do you ever really warn anybody about anything? We're going to three questions about things and people who are actually trying to warn others of imminent danger. Get two right, you'll win a prize for one of our listeners. Are you ready to play?
WARNER: I'm ready.
SAGAL: Here we go. Carl, who is Senator Warner playing for?
KASELL: The senator is playing for Linda Dunn of Ramsey, New Jersey.
SAGAL: All right, here's your first question. A lot of warning labels are placed on products in reactions to prior lawsuits, such as which one of these: A, a warning that you could hurt your hands when you clap for the Clapper, remember clap on, clap off; B, that maybe you're born with it, maybe it's Maybelline, and maybe it causes pinkeye; or C, that you should just stretch it before you just do it because you could just pull it?
JR.: Don't look at me.
BODDEN: We've got nothing.
WARNER: In the era of digital - C.
SAGAL: C, you're going to go for C, you should just stretch it before you just do it?
WARNER: In the Nike theme of earlier.
SAGAL: The Nike theme of earlier. No actually, it was A. It was the Clapper. After a lawsuit filed against the Clapper company, the label on the Clapper sound-activated light switch now says you don't have to clap very hard.
SAGAL: All right, you still have two more chances here. In November, police in Norfolk, England, issued a warning to all residents to do what: A, to report anyone pronouncing Norfolk in a hilarious way; B, to ignore anyone dressed as a clown walking down the street; or B, be aware that once they pop, they will not be able to stop.
WARNER: Well, since one of our largest cities in Virginia is Norfolk, I will - I'll go with A.
SAGAL: You're going to go with A, Norfolk? It was actually ignore the clowns.
SAGAL: Apparently there were people walking around dressed as clowns in Norfolk, and they were trying to attract attention. So police were like just leave the clown be.
BODDEN: So they have clowns wandering the streets, and here in America we can't get a clown?
SAGAL: It's true. We should have...
SALIE: We're outsourcing our clowns.
BODDEN: Your Excellency, I think once you get done with the Bieber deal, you've got to bring some clowns...
SAGAL: Last - one more question. See if you can get this one. Last year, the London Fire Department issued a warning to all residents to be careful not to get stuck in objects, after they received an emergency call from which of these: a man stuck in his own shirt; B, a man stuck in an entry level job; or C, a child with its hand trapped in a vending machine, a child with its head stuck in an ironing board, an adult stuck in a child's toy car, a child with its head stuck in a massage chair, someone with a test tube stuck on their finger and a child with a tambourine stuck on its head.
WARNER: Definitely C.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: And that was just a partial list of the things that the citizens of London have gotten themselves stuck in when the fire department issued that warning. Carl, how did Senator Warner do on our quiz?
KASELL: One correct answer, but he needed at least two to win for Linda Dunn.
SAGAL: Senator Mark Warner is one of the top two senators from the state of Virginia.
SAGAL: Mark Warner thank you so much for joining us. Senator Mark Warner, everybody.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SAGAL: In just a minute Carl gets yippy in our listener limerick challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT, to join us on air.
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